North Texas Daily

FootGolf bringing new life to old sport

FootGolf bringing new life to old sport

April 28
03:48 2016

Austin Jackson | Staff Writer

@a_jack17

Alex Lessard | Associate Sports Editor

@alexjlessard

Andrew Randich studies the fairway of Lake Park Golf Course that sprawls before him. With the wind at his back, Randich sets his ball down, takes five measured steps back and exhales for just a moment.

He then leans forward and bounds towards the ball like Happy Gilmore. But instead of swinging a golf club, Randich plants one leg down and swings his foot through a synthetic leather soccer ball.

This is FootGolf, and Randich hopes it can help save the game he loves.

“It’s just a matter of getting people out on a golf course,” Randich said. “I think a lot of people are hesitant just because they feel uncomfortable.”

Randich, the interim general manager of Lake Park Golf Club in Lewisville, is one of hundreds of golf course managers around the United States who have embraced FootGolf as a way to grow the game of golf.

Randich brought FootGolf to Lake Park in 2014 and hasn’t looked back. Lake Park is just a 20 minute drive from the UNT campus, and all one needs to play is a soccer ball and $10.

Although some are much more competitive than others, FootGolf is streamlined. No need for expensive golf clubs, lessons, collared shirts and pleated pants.

“Pretty much the only requirement that we have down there is that you have a shirt with sleeves on it,” Randich said. “We don’t allow cut-off shirts. Other than that, you can wear pretty much whatever you want.”

Andrew Randich is the general manager of Lake Park Golf Course in Lewisville, Texas. One of many courses across the country to impliment foot golf. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Andrew Randich is the general manager of Lake Park Golf Course in Lewisville, Texas. One of many courses across the country to impliment foot golf. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

Golf and soccer on the surface are contradictory concepts, with one consisting of constant running and physicality, and the other made up of long breaks between swings. But together, the polar opposites harmonize to create a lifeline for a dying sport.

FIFA estimated in a big count done in 2006 that there are 265 million people playing soccer worldwide. Meanwhile, according to a National Golf Foundation study, 24.1 million people played golf once a year in 2105, which is down from 30.6 million in 2003.

“[We’re] trying to focus on the crowd that’s curious about golf but doesn’t want to come out and play and feel the pressure of golfers who are out there all the time,” Randich said.

As for the rules of the game, the concept is simple – put the ball in the hole in as few kicks as possible.

Wayne Pickett, a pro shop attendant at Lake Park, said soccer players initially will have the upper hand in FootGolf, but added the putting greens are the great neutralizer.

“The putting aspect of it, that’s what really changes for a soccer player compared to a non-player,” Pickett said. “That’s where the non-player will catch up a lot. That part of it has nothing to do with soccer at all.”

Pickett said since its addition at Lake Park, FootGolf has been most attractive to former soccer players. One casual soccer player, Behavior Analysis freshman Nathan Roberts, said he always liked the idea of golf but was never very good.

When his friends told him about FootGolf, it was a perfect opportunity to explore golf and showcase his soccer skills. Roberts said anyone can play FootGolf, regardless of age, skill or experience, and the sport is a great way to compete with friends.

“My friend got stuck in the bunker, and he kicked it out on his first try. And he doesn’t play sports,” Roberts said. “I feel like if he could manage it, most anybody else can.”

People have been kicking balls around grass for thousands of years, but FootGolf became an official organized sport in 2006 with the creation of the United States FootGolf Association.

Randich plans on hosting league events and fundraisers on a monthly basis in hope that FootGolf will take off at Lake Park. He said the only thing holding it back is the lack of public awareness.

“We’ve still got people calling and asking about it,” Randich said. “That’s our biggest hurdle, trying to figure out what demographic we’re trying to send this information out to about FootGolf and how to get the word out.”

Randich said North Texas students make up a good portion of Lake Park’s late afternoon golf crowd, but not enough students know about FootGolf. However, with more time and resources designated to promote the sport on local college campuses, students like Roberts may help Lake Park get the growth it’s looking for.

“I played disc golf a little while back, and very slowly, word spread around and people started going and playing it a lot more,” Roberts said. “I feel like it is going to be like that. Just give it a little time and people are going to go out and play.”

Featured Image: Lake Park Golf Course general manager Andrew Randich said that over the summer, they would try to get to UNT and Texas Women’s University to promote Lake Park and foot golf. Dylan Nadwodny | Staff Photographer

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